The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics

Cover Contest

So, some of the editors of SpecGram got together and edited1 a collection of articles from twenty-five years of Speculative Grammarian into a book, which they’ve cleverly titled, The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics.

Being mostly academics, they didn’t really plan as well as they could have, and they ended up sticking a snapshot of an editor’s desk on the cover at the last minute. At the last, last minute, they realized that that was a pretty weird2 thing to do, so at the last, last, last minute they decided to turn it into some sort of a puzzle/contest.

The solution has been revealed!

They wrote:3

As noted elsewhere,1 the cover of this books is very cool. It is, of course, a photograph of the desk of one of our editors, taken in the main SpecGram offices. Granted, it’s a little clutteredbut that’s because, like this book, it is jam-packed with grade-A awesomeness.

To make enjoying the cover even more fun, we’ve decided to turn looking at it into a contest. To win, you’ll need an eagle eye,2 and a mind like a steel trap.3 Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify as many of the items in the photograph as you can, and explain the relationship of each to SpecGram.

Some of the items may seem to have only a tenuous connection to SpecGram. That is most likely because we have collectively forgotten the truth. Feel free to confabulate a connection now and again; the best of the best imaginings may turn out to be5 correct!

Once you’ve made your list and checked it twice, you can send it to Submissions6 received by December 1st, 2014 will be eligible to win7 a signed copy of this very book.8

For those of you who were unable to acquire eagle eyes and are stuck with more pteropine vision, we are providing a high resolution version of the cover image (along with these rules) online at

Winners, if any, and a complete list of relevant items will probably be announced in the January 2015 issue of Speculative Grammarian.

Good luck!

1 See Jones, Slater, Spruiell, Pulju, and Peterson, The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics, page xiv, footnote 2.

2 Really, the eyes of any bird of prey would do.

3 Rusty and illegal in 374 states.

4 This is the universally accepted number of states for this joke. Linguists studying humor need to figure out why 37 is the funniest number less than 50.

5 Retroactively. “What?” you say incredulously. History is written by the winners.

6 All of the aforementioned confabulations explaining seemingly tenuously SpecGram-related items become the property and possibly history of SpecGram.

7 Winners will be chosen at the discretion of the Managing Editor and the SpecGram Puzzle Elves™, based on accuracy and creativity. Brevity might help, too. As well as comprehensibility.

8 Okay, it’s kinda lame, but no purchase is strictly necessary.

So, the promised online page is this very page, and you have found it. The rules are as clear as they are going to get, and an unimpeded view of the book cover image is provided below. Click on the image to see the full-resolution version (6.5 MB).

1 That being what editors are wont to do, if left unattended for too long.

2 Like, weird weird.

3 From The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics, “Appendix B: What is That Mess on the Cover?”, p. 327 (1st edition).